Mexico Is Under Tsunami Warnings After An Enormous Magnitude 8.1 Earthquake Hits Off Its Pacific Coast

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People are reportedly in panic after a massive 8.1 earthquake struck south of Mexico City near Chiapas, Mexico according to CNN. Early reports indicated that a tsunami could be possible and warnings have been issued, but the National Weather Service did not indicate that the U.S. or Canadian coasts would be affected. According to Mexican officials, it is the strongest quake to hit the country since 1985 outside of Mexico City, leaving 5,000 dead and was estimated to cause $3-4 billion in damages.

Different reports indicate the strength of the quake could be slightly less than 8.0, dipping down to 7.8, but the strength is still considerable.

According to the New York Times and Reuters, the quake shook buildings in Mexico City and forced people into the streets. The epicenter of the quake was about 75 miles southwest of Pijijiapan at a depth of about 21 miles according to the New York Times:

“I had never been anywhere where the earth moved so much. At first I laughed, but when the lights went out I didn’t know what to do. I nearly fell over,” said Luis Carlos Briceno, an architect, 31, who was visiting Mexico City.

For comparison, the 2011 Japanese earthquake that caused massive damage and tsunamis measured a 9.0 on the richter scale at a depth of 18 miles. While it is hard to compare one event to the other, the threat of tsunamis still lingers down the southwestern coast of Mexico and down into Central and South America according to NBC News:

Tsunami waves of more than 3 meters, or nearly 10 feet, above the tide level are possible along some coasts of Mexico, the PTWC said.

It added that tsunami waves of 0.3 to 1 meter above the tide level were possible for some coasts of American Samoa, Antarctica, the Cook Islands, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Polynesia, Guatemala, Kiribati, New Zealand, Samoa, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.

There is also the possibility of aftershocks causing more panic in the hours to come.

Mexico is also facing threatening weather on its eastern coast, with Hurricane Katia gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico and hovering over the waters with winds nearing “111 mph or higher” according to The Weather Channel. The storm is expected to make landfall by the weekend, likely compounding any response being mounted by the government.

(Via New York Times / Reuters / AP)